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Archive for June, 2014

Doesn’t The Bible Answer The Problem Of Evil?

I believe the Bible answers the question of how God’s goodness and evil and suffering can co-exist logically. Understanding our Creator’s role during suffering, which is inevitable in the world we live in, can help one to not feel abandoned. Suffering for discussion purposes can be understood as a result of personal or natural evil or else deserved or undeserved. The Book of Job does not actually tell us to shut-up because we cannot possibly understand God for we have the brain of a clam.  Job 2:10 hints of things to come in the story: “shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” God is powerful enough to stop evil if He can create the universe. Why does God allow evil?

God obviously rejected Job’s friends’ assumption that if the righteous suffer this is evidence of sin and God’s displeasure. God declared Job’s innocence (1:8). But, it is seldom recognized that God also rejected Job’s assumption that justice is only present if the wicked are judged or the righteous rewarded immediately. Job questioned God as to why He did not intervene sooner in in his undeserved suffering: “…why should I not be impatient…Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment. Why must those who know him look in vain for such days” (21:4, 24:1)?

God wasn’t declaring He cannot be understood by mere mortals: “who is that that obscures my plans with words without knowledge” (38:2)? God said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him…would you discredit my justice (40:2, 8)? God declared true justice doesn’t means the righteous never suffer here on earth, though one day the righteous will be rewarded and the unjust will be judged. Job eventually acknowledged: “I know you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (42:2). Job acknowledged He was incapable of running the universe where freedom was allowed.

God simply doesn’t react to suffering in the same way as humans. The alternative to God never allowing any suffering is for God to annihilate people at the first sign of evil. But, don’t we give our wayward children opportunities to change no matter the harmed caused to themselves or others? Generations after Noah proved beginning anew does not destroy evil permanently. Demanding respect from our spouse doesn’t bring about desired reconciliation. Lack of freedom, which most would not accept as just, does not allow the higher good in relationships that results from free, moral decisions. The existence of evil does not prove there is no Deity, since we cannot prove there are no good, moral reasons for allowing freedom resulting in so much evil.  We need to consider where evil comes from that results in so much suffering, why God doesn’t intervene more in suffering, and what is God’s response to suffering.

God is not the Creator or Cause of evil. God created a perfect world in the beginning. Suffering, either as a result of personal or physical evil, only came into existence when we chose to rebel against God’s protection. Evil is not something created but originates from the human heart. We have murderous thoughts but God doesn’t create or cause such desires. A Creator is not responsible for unintended choices of their Design. Many argue that God cannot be sovereign if anything happen outside His will. To suggest God foreordained evil ahead of time to accomplish His good purposes and declare His glory is morally indefensible. It suggests God grieves over His actions (Gen 6:6). It is nonsensical to suggest God hates evil but wills evil.

God knew the risks of freedom for the possibility of intimacy as do human parents. The majority of suffering happens because of freedom. Parents still bring children into a world knowing they might not reciprocate their love and their children could cause suffering or suffer at the hands of others. God at least originally brought His creations into a perfect world. God hates that rebellion has brought senseless suffering but apparently there is no other path to true intimacy as not even God can force genuine love. God’s alternative was to not create or override freedom.

If God doesn’t cause suffering, why doesn’t God at least intervene more?  Suffering is either deserved or undeserved Most understand deserved suffering. Provoke your children unnecessarily and don’t expect them to visit when older. With undeserved suffering God would still be questioned unless God stopped all abuse not some abuse, all natural disasters not some natural disasters. God chose to be vulnerable and uncontrolling than invulnerable and controlling. Human parents nor God are sadistic just because they don’t squash freedom to avoid suffering. I, unlike God, may try to spare my children of any suffering though their pain may evolve into help for them and others. God at least walked in our shoes as He did not interfere in his Son’s suffering.

God allowing suffering, inevitable in a free world, can enable us to not fall in love with temporal existence and love what the world offers. I am a better person for my prayers not being answered. Suffering brings to light our defects so to examine and overcome our weaknesses. Is it possible our joy will be greater in the long-run with suffering than without suffering? Profound trust in God during pain and suffering can lead to wisdom about life in general. Also, suffering enables us to be more sensitive and serve others in similar situations. Miracles turned heads but Jesus’ suffering turned the hearts of billions of followers. Martin Luther King suffering moved the scales from the eyes of many how they tolerated bigotry. Suffering, inevitable in a free world, is necessary if you are going to be of much use to others.

What is God’s response to suffering? God doesn’t impose His will on us. God values freedom. God doesn’t annihilate people at the first sign of opposition. God values forgiveness. God’s ultimate response to evil and resulting suffering is the slow, necessary way of the Incarnation. The Cross was to change our attitude about God, not God’s attitude toward us. When rebellion against God lead to suffering, deserved or undeserved, God chose to lead as many people as possible of their own volition to a paradise appropriate for free beings. Perhaps the only way to defeat evil in us, other than destruction, is for us to persevere and overcome evil. Jesus saved others by not saving Himself.

Our demands for an all-powerful, invulnerable God comes at the expense of trusting God knows best how to run the universe and change as many lives as possible through their own volition. God tolerates evil that God could stop in hopes many will come back to God before self-destructing. God is no stranger to undeserved suffering. God’s Son was killed for claiming to be Deity, but the tomb was empty! Ultimately, we may not know all the reasons for why God allows evil to continue or be so random, but God proved His Love for us.

One may ask why God didn’t create a heaven-like state in the first place when creating Adam and Eve. Apparently, not even God can force people to freely choose what is best for them. Ridding of evil may be an individual process. What I cannot explain is if freedom is the highest good, how will there not be pain in Heaven. Where there is a will, won’t there always be pain even in Heaven?  I cannot explain why God chooses to intervene miraculously sometimes. I do know to intervene all the time is to make a mockery of freedom. Argue with God! Question God! He will never abandon you when you seek to understand and depend on Him. God promises good can come from our suffering and we have the hope of one day there not being suffering.

 

Isn’t Christianity Better Off Without Denominations?

Followers of Jesus may have less of an influence in culture because of the creation and presence of Denominations. In New Testament times one of course did not refer to themselves as a Baptist, Methodist, etc. But, Paul warned against the harm of divisions among followers: “I follow Paul; another, I follow Apollos; another, I follow Cephas; still another I follow Christ” (I Cor. 1:12). We already have enough disharmony in relationships, which Jesus came to change. The focus comes off the One who rose from the dead. If two pastors in the same church contradicted one another, we would run. Well, unbelievers see Christians as one group whether Presbyterians, Catholics, etc.  The strife and disagreements are off-putting.

Jesus harshest message was for organized religious groups. Jesus hated how the Pharisees distorted His message (Luke 5:29-31). The Pharisees, who were in love with their power, made religion self-serving rather than self-sacrificing. We may hold on to certain beliefs, not because they are in the best interest of all, but because they keep us employed. Also, the Pharisees had a misguided emphasis on rules and obedience rather than God’s unconditional love. Attending church or being associated with a group or Denomination has nothing to do with spirituality.  The Pharisees attended synagogue but they did not follow Jesus. Jesus followers trust in who Jesus claimed to be, which leads to living out Jesus’ teachings such as loving others as ourselves.

When associated with a Denomination we began referring to some Creed than the Bible for guidance. A singular focus though must lead to civil discussions about God and agreeing to disagree. We must recognize our biblical interpretations are fallible. The Bible is not a single text with a single author. The Bible was written in foreign languages thousands of years ago. Those who call themselves Christians must learn to share and consider one another’s opinion gracefully. We must encourage others to work out their own convictions with as much consistency as possible, unless you don’t believe God can guide people.  Maybe then Christianity would have more of an impact in our culture.

It is best we not refer to ourselves as Baptists for example or even Christians. The term Christian has so many meanings to different people.  The term Christian initially had a negative connotation as it was used by unbelievers as a reference to Jesus’ disciples (Acts 11:26). Jesus the Christ never referred to His followers as Christians. The apostles never called each other Christians. Jesus typically when encountering others simply encouraged them to follow Him. Those who were open to believing Jesus was who He claimed to be were simply followers. When we ask one if they are a Christian, they think we are asking if they are a Baptist, Presbyterian, etc. Like in the Apostle Paul’s era, Christians are associated with something rather than Someone.

What if we got rid of Denominations? People might seek more Who we follow than what we believe in. People would associate spirituality with a Person than a group. The mere presence of Denominations suggests we do not believe the same thing or even get alone. People already know how to not get alone. Followers have nothing to offer others if they are not clearly united by one common belief. Followers desperately want to give others desiring more in their life a reason to consider their beliefs. The presence of Denominations takes the focus off Jesus and the Bible as His words to us for guidance.

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